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Kreisler Bell v2 850202
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Fritz Kreisler (violin)
The Bell Telephone Hour Recording Volume 2
Bell Telephone Hour Orchestra/Donald Vorhees
rec. 1944-48
BIDDULPH 85020-2 [77]

The second volume in this series follows hard on the heels of the first on Biddulph 85019-2, which drew together Kreisler’s concerto movement broadcast recordings for RCA’s Bell Telephone Hour. Kreisler had been against broadcasting for many years, but it was the Petrillo recording ban that perhaps encouraged him to pursue broadcasting, which he did up to 1950. This disc focuses on his 1944-48 recordings.

It seems that the 1946 recording of Corelli’s La Folia, like everything here preserved on non-commercial acetates, hasn’t been released before. Kreisler performs it in his own arrangement though I have to say that for a master of baroquerie, it’s a less than convincing adaptation with the orchestra limping along all too often and Kreisler’s constant re-tweaking of the line amounting almost to recomposition. The extensive cadenza also doesn’t function well as an integral device but it’s enjoyable to hear him unfettered. Many of the other pieces are familiar from sometimes multiple recordings made throughout the course of his long recording life; Dvořák, for example, and Tchaikovsky, though there’s a bit of a stumble halfway through the former’s Humoresque to remind one of his fallibilities now that he was 70.

Some of the acetates bear a higher ration of surface noise than others, such as the arrangement of the Andante Cantabile from Tchaikovsky’s Quartet No 1. Kreisler’s arrangement of Rimsky’s Fantasy on Russian Themes is ingenious - and relatively large-scale at 11-minutes - and in the solo passages persuasively communicative, though it’s sabotaged by hum. He also recorded the Hymn to the Sun, a piece that embodies his arranging magic, though this performance is quite slackly played. Strangely it was recorded on the same day that he perfromed Chausson’s Počme, which is the most important survivor in this disc. Biddulph previously released it as a CD single on FK1 thirty years ago. The acetates had to be spiced together, a job that has been accomplished very creditably by Dennis Patterson as indeed it had been on FK1 by Ward Marston. Though he never recorded it commercially, the respect in which he was held can be measured by the fact that Chausson gave the manuscript of the work to Ysa˙e, the dedicatee, and he in his turn gave it to Kreisler. He takes a little time to warm up, a characteristic of his stage performances, but turns in a good performance, notwithstanding his age, that serves to remind one of the range of his repertoire – though it also makes one wish he’d recorded it in the 1920s.

The other novelty, which I don’t recall having encountered, is his arrangement of the slow movement of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto. This is an affectionate tribute to his old friend and colleague, with whom he made some marvellous recordings, who had died two years previously. One can hear, however, why it hasn’t lasted the course as it’s a decidedly odd piece of work. The Prelude in G minor works much better and was performed on the same day. So too were the Falla Jota and Ravel’s Pičce en form d’Habanera, the day in question in this case being New Year’s Eve – 31 December 1945.

Donald Vorhees and the Bell Telephone Hour Orchestra have less interpretative work to do than in the last disc in the series and are solid, competent accompanists. The sound, as hinted, varies between the tracks but is never less than listenable whilst all announcements have been excised, though some applause has been retained.

Though his technique had inevitably diminished, Kreisler was always charismatic and could, on occasion, still summon up formidable evidence of his tonal splendour.

Jonathan Woolf

Archangelo Corelli (1653-1713)
Violin Sonata No 12 in D minor ‘La Folia’ arr. Fritz Kreisler
Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
Songs My Mother Taught Me, Op 55 No 4 arr. Fritz Kreisler
Humoresque Op 101 No 7 arr. Fritz Kreisler
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
Humoresque Op 10 No 2 arr. Fritz Kreisler
Andante cantabile from String Quartet No 1 in D, Op 11
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
Fantasy on Russian Themes, Op 33 arr. Fritz Kreisler
Hymn to the Sun from Le Coq d’Or arr. Fritz Kreisler

Published: November 30, 2022

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